Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau is a lovely historical town south of Paris, France (55.5 km - 34.5 miles). It is renowned for its large and scenic Forest of Fontainebleau, a favorite weekend getaway for Parisians, as well as for the historical Château de Fontainebleau of the kings of France, which attracts crowds of tourists.

Get in

Getting there is very easy from Paris.

By train

You can go by train from Paris by Gare de Lyon: there are at least two trains an hour. At Gare de Lyon, the train ticket should be purchased to the destination Fontainebleau Avon from the green or blue colored Billet Île-de-France machines and not from the yellow colored SNCF machines. Note that these are the same machines from which you buy Paris metro tickets. Many of these machines accept only coins or a chipped debit card, so if you have only bills and are traveling with a non-chipped card, be prepared. If you decide to purchase from a station other than Gare de Lyon, be sure to select the correct departing station.

If you are struggling to find an appropriate ticket machine in Gare de Lyon, they are marked on the station maps as Île-de-France machines. Fontainebleau Avon is not likely to be the train's displayed destination, and many of the boards don't display more than the final destination, so be prepared to show station staff your ticket and ask for help. Finally, you must stamp your ticket before boarding the train or risk incurring a 30 Euro fine.

As of January 2015, the adult return fare is €17.70 and the ride lasts about 35 min, stopping only in the towns of Melun and Bois-le-Roi before arriving in the green town of Fontainebleau (you will feel the fresh forest air as soon as you come out). Later, upon your return back to Gare de Lyon, note that you may continue using the same train ticket to get to any Metro destination within Paris. If you plan to do the return trip during the same day, buy a Mobilis ticket (day pass) valid for zones 1-5 instead, it will be cheaper (€16.60) and valid for any transportation (in both Paris and Fontainebleau) during the day

From the Gare de Fontainebleau Avon you can use a Line 1 bus, operated by Veolia Transport to get to the Chateau (about 15 minutes) although buses seem to stop around eight in the evening. The bus ticket costs €1.80, BUT if you have the purchased the Mobilis day pass, this allows you to ride the bus to AND from the castle without any additional cost, just show your ticket to the driver and he will direct you to use the ticket machine on the bus. Enter it and then it will spit it back out to be saved by you. To find the last stop, you can look for either the Place Napoléon Bonaparte or the Castle as each stop is in the centre.

Alternatively you can walk (about 30 minutes). If you choose to walk, cross under the tracks and follow the signs to the chateau. They will lead you to the corner of the walled park abutting the chateau, where you can follow the paths to the edge of the gardens and then find signs to the entrance.

By car

The total distance from centre to centre is about 65 km or an hour. From Paris, follow signs towards the south, then signs for Lyon and the A6. After about 35 minutes you will see signs for Fontainebleau. Once entering the city there is a tall apartment block which is a remnant of some architectural style a lot in the city would like to see disappear. However, it still forms part of the town’s history – as much as the castle even if in much less splendour.

Get around

Orientation in town is very easy as there is only one main artery called the “Rue Grande” which goes from the Castle to the other end of town, passing by the central “Napoléon Bonaparte” place. Many shops, bars and restaurants abound on either sidewalk for every possible taste. Walking is by far the best option as the most you’ll walk without stopping (very difficult thing to do considering all the pretty windows to look at) would be 20 minutes.

See

Le bassin des cascades in the park of the Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau interior

Learn

The Chateau de Fontainebleau hosts a summer music institution. It is a combination of a music conservatory and an architecture studio in a historic chateau setting. Courses are taught in English by predominately French musicians, composers, artists, and professors. Nadia Boulanger, a young composition and harmony professor led the school until 1979. The school has influenced such composers as: Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Louise Talma, Samuel Dushkin, Elliott Carter, Beveridge Webster, Kenton Coe and many others.

Do

There are many cultural, sporting, entertainment or shopping activities one can do. For more information on this, the best available and updated website is the official tourism site, linked at the top of this article.

The town is also famous for a horse race track and its Sunday morning food market.

The forest is also full of sandstone boulders perfect for climbing/bouldering.

Birdwatching The walled park of the chateau provides excellent birdwatching, especially if you arrive early. The forest is also nearby.

Buy

There are plenty of shops from high-end pastry shops to the latest French fashion cloth wear and jewellery.

Eat

The town boasts many different restaurants from Mexican to Japanese, Pizza to Fish-only. Of course there are Brasseries (the most authentic being, quite unknowingly called the “Franklin Roosevelt”) and very good French restaurants (the best one being in the Hotel Napoleon).

Drink

There are plenty of places to drink, from modern ambient bars to traditional French bars, English pubs and Mexican bars.

Sleep

There are plenty of places to sleep in Fontainebleau but the three best places are the Aigle Noir Hotel, the Napoléon Hotel and the Hotel of London.

Go next

As if the town didn’t offer enough as it is, there are many other attractions in the surrounding region. Towns like Barbizon (home of the artists), Milly-la-Foret, Samois-sur-Seine, and many others…

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 11, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.